A 12-year-old girl gets a very strange job in this new fantasy.
Gertie Milk awakens on a peculiar coast suffering amnesia. She determines her name through a label sewn onto her gown but doesn’t have long to contemplate it. An encounter with a terrifying creature sends her running until a man who calls himself the Keeper of Lost Things, or Kolt, finds her. Turns out the creature is a gentle example of a species now extinct on Earth…and the island is not quite on Earth. Kolt’s explanations are never straightforward, but Gertie is a practical girl who wants answers. Their rapport is quick and witty, their personalities strong and quirky. Gertie learns that she is a Keeper, too. Together, they time travel to return lost items for the good of humankind, as directed by the B.D.B.U., a book containing the knowledge of the world. This is just the start of philosophical discussions that cover time, the value of life, the transformation of death, the importance of progress, and the danger posed by the Losers, a band that’s trying to eradicate knowledge. Lest the battle for the fate of humankind get too dire, it’s all balanced by fantastic encounters with extraordinary characters, human and not, in the most vivid settings. For all its modern themes, it feels very old-fashioned, with voice reminiscent of mid-20th-century British fantasy that will have readers seeing Gertie and Kolt as white.
Their last assignment reveals tantalizing clues about Gertie’s past and the war that stranded her on the Skudark, leaving readers waiting breathlessly for the next volume. (Fantasy. 9-12)